As the interjection explained on my last post, Oh flip!, this one, rats!, is also a mild expression of annoyance, though this can sound dated now.
It isn’t at all rude and you can say it in front of anyone. For example, you might say:
«Rats! I’ve missed my bus.»
Words often used with rat
- smell a rat: think something is wrong, become suspicious. Example: «The kids all swore they hadn’t done anything wrong, but they weren’t behaving normally and their mom smelled a rat.»
- not give a rat’s ass (mainly US, slang): no care at all. Example: «I don’t give a rat’s ass what you think. I’m doing it anyway!»
- like a rat up a drainpipe: very quickly. Example: «When the prisoner was released and they opened the gate to let him out, he was gone like a rat up a drainpipe.»
- like rats leaving a sinking ship: said about people deserting something that seems to be failing. Example: «After the poor profits were announced, people started deserting the firm like rats leaving a sinking ship.
Thanks to Wordreference, Word of the Day.
More about rats…
When there are rats in some place, Scottish custom tells that you can make a “rat satire,” a song that is made up at the moment and sung to the rats to encourage them to leave and go elsewhere where there is food.
Diana Gabaldon includes this part of the Scottish tradition on her books series, Outlander. And also on the TV series from Starz channel. See:
«Ye rats, ye are too many,
If ye would dine in plenty,
Ye mun go, ye mun go.
Go to Campbell’s garden,
Where nae cat stands warden,
And the kate, it grows green.
Go and fill your bellies,
Dinna stay and gnaw my wellies-
Go, ye rats, go!»
Traducción de Carmen Bordeu:
Vosotras, ratas, sois demasiadas,
si queréis cenar en abundancia,
debéis iros, debéis iros.
Id al jardín de los Campbell,
donde ningún gato monta guardia
y la col crece y madura.
Id y llenad vuestras panzas,
no sigáis royendo mis bienes
¡Iros, ratas, iros ya!